Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Lying: Language, Knowledge, Ethics, and Politics

2019.10.06 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Eliot Michaelson and Andreas Stokke (eds.), Lying: Language, Knowledge, Ethics, and Politics, Oxford University Press, 2018, 320pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198743965. Reviewed by Emanuel Viebahn, Humboldt University of Berlin The communicative act of lying is the focus of a burgeoning debate in applied philosophy of language. Philosophers of language are interested in questions such as: What kind of communicative act is lying? How does lying differ from other forms of insincerity? But these questions clearly also matter for questions in epistemology, ethics and political philosophy. For instance, they matter for the question whether lying and mere misleading differ in a way that is morally relevant. The collection of essays edited by Eliot Michaelson and Andreas Stokke does justice to the inter-subdisciplinary significance of lying and other forms of insincerity by covering all four of the areas mentioned above. It contains three essays each on the language and on the epistemology... Read [More]

“An Optimistic Bet”

The relationship between truth and social progress is then an optimistic bet. I hope that knowing the truth is part of what sets us free. But that’s an empirical hunch that could well turn out to be wrong. That’s Elizabeth Barnes, professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia, in a wide-ranging interview by Richard Marshall at 3:16. I draw particular attention to that line because I think it gets at an underexplored element of philosophizing: philosophers’ hopes or “optimistic bets” that certain things turn out to be true. The contents of these hopes aren’t assumed to be true, but they aren’t thought of as mere possibilities, either, as they have a kind of motivating power towards doing philosophy, and towards exploring some lines of inquiry and answers over others. The diversity and distribution of such hopes affect what people philosophize about, and what the overall picture of philosophy looks like at any time. Professor Barnes continues on the connection between truth and social progress, and what she takes to be her responsibilities as a philosopher: It could be that people aren’t motivated by the truth in any way, or that a noble lie would’ve been more politically effective. It’s also, of course, an open question that the truth could turn out to be politically inconvenient for people like me. I hope it’s not, but it might be. And I think any open and honest philosophical inquiry needs to countenance that otherwise it feels [More]

Philosophy Majors and the GRE: Updated Data (w/updates)

When students are compared by major on how far above average they do on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), a standardized test used in many disciplines to assess applicants to graduate programs, philosophy majors come out on top, according to a new look at test score data over the past few years. Tomas Bogardus, associate professor of philosophy at Pepperdine University, had noticed that much of the data easily available about how philosophy undergraduates fare on the GRE (such as on the Value of Philosophy pages) was from 2015 at the latest, and helpfully compiled newer information, including the chart above and the table below. He writes: If you just add up raw scores from the three sections, Philosophy doesn’t have the highest total score. But, because of the different standard deviations for each section, you might think that what’s more interesting is how far above average students are scoring on each section, i.e. how many standard deviations above the mean for all students is the mean score for each major. When you do that, and take the average number of standard deviation from the mean for all three sections, Philosophy majors are on top. And that seems to be because of how exceptionally well they do on the Verbal and Writing sections, which makes up for their relatively modest (but still well above average!) score on the Quantitative section.  Below is a table showing mean GRE scores, by major. In addition to performing better than all others in [More]

Philosophy Majors and the GRE: Updated Data

When students are compared by major on how far above average they do on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), a standardized test used in many disciplines to assess applicants to graduate programs, philosophy majors come out on top, according to a new look at test score data over the past few years. Tomas Bogardus, associate professor of philosophy at Pepperdine University, had noticed that much of the data easily available about how philosophy undergraduates fare on the GRE (such as on the Value of Philosophy pages) was from 2015 at the latest, and helpfully compiled newer information, including the chart above and the table below. He writes: If you just add up raw scores from the three sections, Philosophy doesn’t have the highest total score. But, because of the different standard deviations for each section, you might think that what’s more interesting is how far above average students are scoring on each section, i.e. how many standard deviations above the mean for all students is the mean score for each major. When you do that, and take the average number of standard deviation from the mean for all three sections, Philosophy majors are on top. And that seems to be because of how exceptionally well they do on the Verbal and Writing sections, which makes up for their relatively modest (but still well above average!) score on the Quantitative section.  Below is a table showing mean GRE scores, by major. In addition to performing better than all others in [More]

APA Member Interview: Jaime Edwards

Jaime Edwards is currently an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at St. Norbert College. He completed his PhD at the University of Chicago in 2018. He specializes in social & political philosophy and 19th & 20th century continental philosophy. What excites you about philosophy? First, I think that philosophy provides the least dogmatic venue for seriously working [More]

Mike’s Free Encounter #14: Bad Mercenaries

This is the 14th in an ongoing series aimed to provide the overworked DM with ready-to run encounters. The PCs face off against bad mercenaries threatening peaceful farmers. The encounter includes: History/Background for the encounter. New Monsters Encounter guide. Color Maps The companion ZIP file contains: JPEG and Campaign Cartographer versions of the maps (with [More]

Escaping Skinner's Box: AI and the New Era of Techno-Superstition

[The following is the text of a talk I delivered at the World Summit AI on the 10th October 2019. The talk is essentially a nugget taken from my new book Automation and Utopia. It's not an excerpt per se, but does look at one of the key arguments I make in the book]The science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once formulated three “laws” for thinking about the future. The third law states that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. The idea, I take it, is that if someone from the Paleolithic was transported to the modern world, they would be amazed by what we have achieved. Supercomputers in our pockets; machines to fly us from one side of the planet to another in less than a day; vaccines and antibiotics to cure diseases that used to kill most people in childhood. To them, these would be truly magical times. It’s ironic then that many people alive today don’t see it that way. They see a world of materialism and reductionism. They think we have too much knowledge and control — that through technology and science we have made the world a less magical place. Well, I am here to reassure these people. One of the things AI will do is re-enchant the world and kickstart a new era of techno-superstition. If not for everyone, then at least for most people who have to work with AI on a daily basis. The catch, however, is that this is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, it is something we should worry about. Let me explain by way of an analogy. In [More]